About Hedgehogs

 

Hedgehogs are the only spiny mammal in Britain, they were introduced to Jersey in the middle of the 19th century, around the same time as red squirrels. They are a very ancient animal and have been around in their present form for about 15 million years. They are nocturnal, which means they are normally only out of their nests when it is dusk or dark, but in summer when the nights are short, you may see one in the evening or early morning when it is light, because there are not enough hours of darkness for it to find enough food. Hedgehogs are insectivores and will eat a wide variety of insects and invertebrates in your garden, which is why they have been called “the gardener’s friend”. They do no harm in the garden. They are at risk from slug pellets, insecticides and other garden chemicals and so we ask people not to use any harmful pesticides in their gardens. They have no natural predators in Jersey, as there are no badgers or foxes on the Island, but there are still many hazards for them to face, most of them caused by humans. http://www.jerseyhedgehogs.org.je/hazards.htm

 

Rats, feral ferrets and dogs may attack them and even kill them.  Cats will only pose a threat to very young hedgehogs before they are independent of mother. The breeding season in Jersey runs from May to October, males take no part in family life, once they have mated they disappear into the night to find the next female. Gestation is about 35 days, mother hedgehogs suckle their babies or hoglets for 4-6 weeks after they are born, feeding them on their very rich milk, which makes them double their birth weight in the first week of life. There can be as many as 8 in a litter but 4 or 5 is a more usual number. At birth hoglets weigh anything from 7-25g and when they leave mother at about two months old, they weigh about 250g

 

A few hours old..............One day old................One week oldt.......Trying to roll up at 10days old

When they are born, the first white spines are covered with a fluid-filled membrane, to make it less painful for the mother, but shortly after birth the first spines appear, see the pictures above for comparison. At about one week old their skin starts to turn grey and some fine brown spines appear. Their eyes and ears remain closed until they are about 2 weeks old.

 

Two weeks old................Three weeks old................Four Weeks old

At two weeks old the eyes start to open, the teeth do not erupt until the third week. By the time they are four weeks old they look like miniature adults.This is the age when they follow mum from the nest and learn to forage for food. They sometimes get lost or trapped and are found by kind people in the morning who ring us and we take care of them until they are old enough to be completely independent. If you should find a baby hedgehog on its own out in the open in the day time, please do take action, because if left, flies will come along and lay their eggs on it and then maggots will hatch.

 

These Hogs are 5 - 6 weeks old

 

Hibernation:

A hibernating nest is made of dry leaves and grass, it takes several nights to make, It has to be water- and weatherproof, so that the inside temperature remains constant, whatever the weather does outside. The hedgehog carries leaves and grass in its mouth until it has made a big pile, then it goes round and round inside, weaving a sturdy nest with its spines. The nest is built under brambles or some other sort of support to keep it in shape. Hedgehogs will make several of these nests during the autumn in preparation for winter.

 

During the winter when insects and other invertebrates are hard to find, hedgehogs go into hibernation to save energy, which means they slow their whole body right down to an absolute minimum, their breathing, heart rate and metabolic rate just tick over. If you accidentally disturbed a hibernating hedgehog, you might think it was dead, it would feel stone cold and would be in a tight ball, and you would have to wait some time before you could see it breathe. If you gently touched its spines, they might flinch, so you would know it was alive. But if it was in really deep hibernation, you might get no clue at all whether it was alive or dead. You should gently put it back where you found it and it will wake up in its own time and find another nest.

It is quite usual to see hedgehogs about at night during the winter months, especially in mild weather, they don’t hibernate for the whole time, they wake up in their nests every 7-10 days, and may or may not come out for something to eat and drink. It is only if you see one out and about during the daytime that you should be concerned. 

They have two types of fat, white fat to live off and special lobes of brown fat, which act like booster fuel to restart their metabolism when they wake up. So during the autumn they need to put on enough body fat to keep them going through the winter, they lose about a quarter of their body weight during hibernation. This is why youngsters in their first year are especially vulnerable, and many do not survive their first winter.They need to weigh 450g by the end of November or when the cold weather comes, if they are to stand a good chance of surviving the winter in the wild. If people find underweight autumn juveniles, we try to help them, fattening them up to 600g and then releasing them in a mild spell or perhaps waiting until Spring.

 

 

Hedgehogs which need our help and those which should be left alone

HEDGEHOGS WHICH SHOULD BE LEFT IN THE WILD:

Misguided people sometimes “rescue” a healthy hedgehog in the road at night and put it in their (enclosed) garden to eat slugs and other pests.  This is very cruel because hedgehogs wander long distances every night, especially in the breeding season, and they know their own home area very well.  So if you find an uninjured hedgehog at night in the road, please move it out of harm’s way nearby, but not more than a few hundred metres from where you found it.

During long summer days when the hours of darkness are short, mother hedgehogs often wander away from their nests to forage, well meaning people pick them up, thinking they must be ill, when there is nothing wrong with them and it is obviously imperative that they be returned to the place where they were found as soon as possible, so that their babies do not die from cold, hunger or predation.

At other times, hedgehogs whose nests have been disturbed may be seen walking purposefully to another nest site during the day, these also should be left to go on their way.

 

HEDGEHOGS WHICH MAY NEED HELP:

1. Hedgehogs lying out in daylight: Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so if they are lying out of their nests during the day, that is a sure sign that something is wrong. A healthy hedgehog does not “sunbathe” on the lawn. Please phone for advice, even if you cannot see an injury. Because they roll up if they are frightened, it is often very difficult to see if they are hurt. If they are injured we take them to the vet to be examined under anaesthetic. The spines on a dehydrated hedgehog will lie flat against its back and not stand up at all angles as they do on a healthy hog.

......Sick Hedgehog......................Healthy Hedgehog..............Hog bitten by dog

 

2. Baby hedgehogs

Baby hedgehogs (hoglets) can be born from May until the end of October in Jersey and they sometimes lose their way at night when learning to forage with mother, if you find one lying in full view in daytime, the flies will also find it and lay their eggs on it, which will hatch into maggots and the hedgehog will die if you do not rescue it.

 

3.Autumn juveniles:

Lapping Milk Replace..

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After the end of November any young hedgehog which has not reached a safe weight for hibernation (450g) may not survive the winter in the wild.  If they are found and brought to us, we care for them until they weigh 600g when we release them in mild weather or wait until Spring if they decide to hibernate in care.

If you find a small hog after dark in winter you may like to care for it yourself, please contact us for advice and help as these autumn juveniles often suffer from lots of worms and may not survive without medication and experienced care. Please phone us on 734340

4.Nest disturbance

If you disturb a nest of very young hoglets, please ring as soon as possible for advice, circumstances vary and we do not want to remove babies when the mother is hiding nearby and likely to return to the nest.   If the nest site has to be destroyed e.g. when a shed is demolished and the nest was underneath, please do all you can to keep the mother with the babies without touching them with your bare hands. Put a large box or bucket over the entire nest and phone for help.  If you touch the babies the mother may reject them.  However, if you find a solitary hoglet and cannot find the nest to return it to, please do rescue it, keep it warm and phone 01534 734340 for help urgently, do not feed it cow’s milk, we have special milk replacer to feed it. Hedgehogs cannot digest the lactose or milk sugar in cow’s milk and it can kill young hoglets by giving them diarrhoea.

Feeding Esbilac milk replacer...

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HOW TO RESCUE A HEDGEHOG:

 Please wear gloves or use an old towel to protect yourself from their spines and any infection or parasites they may have. Pick it up and put it in a deep box with some ripped up newspaper or hay to hide under. Offer it some water to drink and some dog or cat food to eat, do not give it cow’s milk, as they cannot digest the lactose and may get a tummy upset if they drink it. Please cover the box to prevent escape and keep it inside away from flies and if the weather is cold, in a warm room, until help arrives. Phone  01534 734340 for help or advice

Any hedgehog found out in daylight at anytime of year whatever its size will be in need of immediate help, so please phone us at once on 734340 if you live in Jersey or contact your nearest carer if you live elsewhere.  A list of UK carers is to be found on the BHPS website carers page: http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/carers.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact Information

Dru Burdon

White Lodge

Waterworks Valley

St Helier

JE3 1HQ

01534 734340

 

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